As John Edwards rallied a large, friendly crowd at North Dakota State University on Saturday afternoon, nothing in his demeanor suggested he was frustrated or angry or worried about the barrage of criticism hurled this week at him and Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry.
Instead, he has told audiences who have come to cheer on the Democratic ticket to reject "the tired, old, hateful, negative politics of the past."
Some in the crowd here agreed it would be better to take the high road.
"I think it's frustrating to listen to the Republicans and all their negativism, but I don't think it's really helping them," said Hiram Sirjord, 67, a retired postal worker. "I think you've got to try to be uplifting for people and get them to the polls."
Edwards, who hit the stump Friday morning after spending a few days with his family at his beach home in North Carolina, defended his running mate from criticism by Vice President Cheney, who ridiculed Kerry's use of the word "sensitive" in discussing how he would wage a war on terrorism.
Throughout his stops Friday and Saturday, Edwards noted how Cheney had seized on "one word out of a long discussion" about terrorism. Edwards then recounted Kerry's service as a decorated Vietnam veteran and moved on to focus on jobs, health care and other domestic issues.
Edwards, through a spokesman, said he and Kerry will continue to remain focused on their message.
"John Kerry and I will continue to travel from community to community to lay out for the American people our positive, optimistic vision for this country, no matter what kind of negative attacks we face," he said. "We are determined to keep telling the American people what we will do to make their lives better. The other side has attacks, but we have a plan to make America stronger at home and respected in the world."
Democratic voters -- and at least one Republican couple -- who have turned out over the past two days seem to think the ticket is doing fine and doesn't need to return the fire of Cheney and President Bush.
"I just think the people are getting smarter as to Mr. Bush's antics. I think Bush is money-hungry, he's power-hungry, and I think people are starting to smarten up and see through him," Jan Gion, 53, a high school teacher in Fargo, said Saturday as she waited for Edwards at the rally. She would rather see the Democrats "play positive politics rather than the dirty politics," she said. "I have a lot more respect for that."
Mary Hansen, a Lutheran minister who was seated nearby, chimed in that one thing the Democratic ticket should do is "address and bring along the support that he has of non-evangelical Christians."
"That's a big play that the Republicans have, that they're the Christian party. . . . I've been a Democrat for 33 years, and it is my understanding that it is the Democrats who care about the people and not the Republicans," Hansen said. "There are a lot of good Christians who don't happen to be evangelical Christians who feel very strongly about this election."
On Friday and Saturday, Edwards held "front porch" visits with residents struggling with pocketbook issues. In Flint, Mich., he talked to three people worried about the job market, and in Belle Plaine, Minn., he chatted with four families concerned about health care costs. He has also been the star attraction at Democratic rallies. The events have put him largely among the faithful, who roar their approval at his calls for repairing America's image around the world and investing in education, health care and job growth at home.
But at least one Republican has been sold. Joyce Slater, 73, a registered Republican, stood in the rain waiting for Edwards at a rally in Flint on Friday afternoon.
"I'm very disappointed in Bush. We've got 931 dead boys, and for what? And how many injured? Thousands. And thousands of dead Iraqis and for what?" Slater asked.
Kerry had planned to go windsurfing Saturday, but the trip was canceled for want of wind. He plans to take off for four days in Ketchum, Idaho, while Edwards continues campaigning.
Staff writer Jonathan Finer in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.